US Open golf: Mickelson in prime position at Merion

Golf News

Phil Mickelson holds the outright lead ahead of the final day at the 2013 US Open.

The US Open looks set for a thrilling finale, with seven players sitting within three shots of the lead after the third round at Merion.

Overnight leader Phil Mickelson continued his excellent form on the second day to regain the clubhouse lead ahead of the final round. The American carded three birdies, including an impressive 2 at the long par-3 17th to post a highly respectable 70, adding to his first round 67 and second round 72 for a leading score of -1. 

The four time major winner is yet to record a victory in the US Open, having finished second on five occasions, but is in prime position going into the final day in this year’s tournament.

Luke Donald looked set to share the clubhouse lead with Mickelson having occupied the top spot for much of the day, but the Englishman dropped three shots on the final two holes to end the day two off the lead.

Trailing Mickelson are Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel (Even), with Justin Rose (+1), Billy Horchel (+1) and Jason Day (+2) all still in contention to challenge for the title providing they can post good scores tomorrow.
The first three days have shown that Merion plays as tough as any course – especially over the closing five holes. It proved to be a disastrous day for world number one Tiger Woods, who made eight bogeys during his round to finish six over for the day and nine over for the tournament. Despite being the overwhelming favourite before the first day’s play, with many people thinking that Merion would suit Tiger’s game, he has struggled for form this week and is now out of the running to win his 15th major title.

Likewise, Rory McIlroy struggled to find form and followed his first and second round scores of 73 and 70 with another poor score of 75, leaving the 2011 US Open champion with no chance of winning this week.

Ahead of the day’s play, certain players criticised the course set up at Merion, which has no semi-rough this week and famously uses wicker baskets instead of flags. Many had expected Merion to offer an easier examination of the top professionals’ game when compared to longer venues which have previously hosted the tournament, but the first three days have shown that the course plays as tough as any – especially over the closing five holes.

Commenting on these aspects of the course, Lee Westwood (+6) said: “There’s no semi rough this week.  It’s just strange really, because there’s some undulation on the fairways.”

After watching his ball hit a basket on top of the flagstick earlier in the tournament, Westwood added: “Peter Dawson has reassured me that for the Open Championship we’ll be going back to flags like a normal tournament.”

Zach Johnson (+11 missed cut) also spoke out against the USGA for what he describes as “course manipulation”. The 2007 Masters champion said: “I would describe the whole golf course as manipulated. It just enhances my disdain for the USGA and how it manipulates golf courses. I think Merion is a great golf course, if you let Merion be, but that is not the agenda.”

Responding to the criticism, USGA Chief Executive Mike Davis said:”I thought Merion played beautifully. We knew it was going to play tough all along – it’s a tough course!”

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